Blog 2020 Medical trip
Rotary Club of Stratford Charitable Foundation/COMMIT Mission trip Jan 16 to 31, 2020 Nicaragua
The Rotary Club of Stratford Charitable Foundation/COMMIT/NPH Mission trip this year to our usual destination in Nicaragua was very successful. Seventeen participants - including 3 doctors, 5 nurses, 2 pharmacists, and a Pharmacy assistant, two Rotarian American friends and 4 other dedicated members including our youngest of 18 who has a focus on Missionary work made the trip. It was an excellent mix of old and young who worked seamlessly together to accomplish our Goals and Mission.
I invite you to read our web page and daily blog to get the true flavour of our trip and the people we serve (commitwithnphnicaragua.simplesite.com ).
I will divide our story into 3 parts - Container, Mission and Projects.
We sent a full and quite stuffed 40 foot container down in October 2019 which arrived in early January in time for unpacking and distribution by our team. It contained a variety of items including 2 Maternity/Delivery beds ($40,000), three Examination tables ($6000), Two Defibrillators ($3000), Stretcher/bed , cribs, medicine cart, many bedside and overhead tables, wheelchairs, walkers, crutches, canes and other medical devices and supplies, dental products, 400 bags of layettes packages put together with products for mom and newborns), clothes ,linens and blankets, tools , school supplies , toys, games, sports equipment, one bicycle, sewing machines, and even an upright freezer (donated by our own Eliz Gaffney). All the container products were requested or needed and much prized by the recipients, including the Nandaime and Rivas hospitals. We were fortunate to have as one team member someone well connected with the Medical supply field who was able to have donated many of the expensive products we obtained. We also teamed up with Pan Missions, a church group in Guelph area who does a large Sewing project (Apollo) in Managua to transport 1000 lbs of material for them.
Thank you, Janice and Maire, for going down 10 days early to sort and distribute some of the larger items so we could have room for our accommodation. This will be our 4th container sent to this area, each one valued at over $100,000.
We were also able to also have donated an ECG machine ($5000) and a Vital signs monitor ($700) along with two laptop computers (Go Tech) which we took down with the main team in 26 hockey bags.
Truly a gift from heaven were 2500 pairs of new running shoes and clothing donated by Adidas Canada valued at $250,000. some of which we took and the rest to be sent in March of this year. Thank you, Adidas Canada. You have helped many sore, but now happy, feet in Nicaragua.
Last but not least we also had 65 solar lights donated by Grace United Church in Tavistock to supply light to the community of La Flor which has no electricity in their remote village. They have been distributed to the inhabitants which gives new meaning to the word “Let there be light”
Our medical team set out early each morning( 4 am one morning to reach our remote destination 2 ½ hrs away in 4 wheel drive Lorry) and ran medical clinics in 6 villages and Dental Clinics in 2.Our team of doctors ,nurses and valuable assistants along with a Local Nicaraguan team of doctors and nurses saw over 1000 people and over 50 dental patients needing 50 extractions. We dispensed several thousand prescriptions mainly for chronic care conditions like diabetes and hypertension, and vitamins and pain meds. No person was turned away although exhaustion set in for our team mid afternoon in hot dusty conditions. With our team of translators and helpers we did an awesome job of serving the people. We educated our clinic clientele about wise use of antibiotics, dental care, foot care especially for diabetics. We preformed several hundred lab tests (urinalysis, blood sugars, hemoglobins ) dispensed over 1000 reading and sun glasses, 1000 toothbrushes and tooth paste, soap and 5 hearing aids to very grateful people who could now hear well for the first in a long time.
First aid courses were taught in each village around common problems such as choking, CPR, treatment of wounds, burns and fractures but also related to common problems they have seen. First aid kits were left with each trained team member
Every clinic was a challenge on where and how to set up stations, clean rooms , put up partitions , establish an efficient flow, police etc, Then there was the question of how many were going to come but it was always more than we anticipated.. We even set up our own latrine at least for the ladies with tarps that sometimes blew up in the wind gusts to the consternation of our female users. Our team with their initial organized chaos eventually honed their efficiency and each member became their own director and independent part a smooth operation. Since there was a run on shoes and color and style became as important as size, we had to limit shoes to diabetics and the elderly since we were overwhelmed with remaining allotment given out by a local committee of leaders to dispense to the most needy.
Cleaning up the yard for our arrival by the locals usually involved burning the leaves just before creating a smoky environment for our work and necessitating a fire brigade to extinguish so we could breath and do our jobs.
On the last day we had time to vaccinate the 4 dogs and one cat at the orphanage for Rabies to protect the inhabitants and all the school groups that come to help out.
Sound like fun. You bet it was!!!
We have several projects ongoing in this area.
Our biggest is a water project that involves drilling 4 wells with electric pumps and water towers in villages with no local safe or reliable water and dependent on a tanker truck which brings in water to fill pails for inhabitants 2x wk which of course has to be rationed. Two other communities that have wells that we drilled are being upgraded to Electric pumps, Water Towers and Distribution systems with piping of 7.5 km and 3.5km long respectively. This is a project partnership of the Rotary Club of Stratford Charitable Foundation, Rotary Club of Granada, Local Alcaldia (local government) of Nandaime and NPH. We are in the process of applying for a Global Grant but this large a project is very complicated especially bureaucratically. This was identified as a priority by local government officials but clean, safe and adequate water should be a right of every citizen in this world
We had two meeting with of all parties concerned and with the villages to further the above process during this Mission informing them of the exact nature of the project and asking for input. They were anxious for us to start.
Eco friendly stoves
Our second project is a stove project to replace the open fire cooking in contained areas with eco and health friendly stoves (50 to 70% more efficient) that vent through ceiling. We have run 6 pilot stoves in the community of Nandarola for a year and on this trip, assessed their success and obtained input from the users on satisfaction and any changes they would recommend. The input was extremely positive with only some minor changes needed and the Rotary Club of Hyde Park London is now going to take the lead in applying for a global grant to install more as a cooperative venture with Ecofogon (the NGO that developed the technology ), The Rotary Club of Granada and the local people who want to participate. Since these are wood burning stoves, it will be combined with a reforestation project to renew the environment.
Our 3rd project is a garden project initiated by Pat and Jane Feryn and ongoing for a year. The land is poor and divested of nutrients for other than subsistence crops. To convince the participants of changes possible, farmers were taken to organic farms for education and a local agronomist was hired on contract to work with the community. Garden tools, fencing, and supplies for worm compost boxes were purchased and constructed during our visit in October 2019. They have learned composting, both traditional and worm from cow manure which is abundant in the community, and have started to grow a variety of crops they have never grown before and have sold their first bags of rich compost commercially. More farmers have joined (17 now) and their gardens are flourishing. They are very proud of their accomplishments, have enriched their diets and soon their pocketbooks. They have formed cooperatives, are sharing with the village, and are planning the next stage which will be a nursery program from seed. You can see the pride in their faces as they show us their accomplishments and their increased hope for a better future.
They would now also like to invest in a corn mill so they do not have to travel 1 hour to have their corn ground in a nearby city and are willing to share in this cooperative venture.
Twelve tables and a physio table were needed for the preschool daycare program started at the orphanage and their physio program for the disabled in the area also run at the orphanage. We purchased a bus last year to transport less fortunate children from the nearby communities (120) to a day program where they are given breakfast and lunch, medical needs are looked after, and they receive an education. New tables were needed for that endeavour and we were lucky to have an American couple as part of our team and he is a carpenter. Over the space of several days, he was able to build 12 tables and a physio table for the children to work and eat at. COMMIT purchased the materials and chairs. . Congratulations, Chip and Mary, for this vitally needed project.
COMMIT is helping to start a dental program (Dental Society of Stratford and area donated $1000) for this day program as well which we hope to have going in the next few weeks
We believe Rotary/COMMIT are making a significant difference within our own continent in one of the poorest countries in Central America and living up to the Rotary model of Service Above Self. We even got very positive coverage in the regional News Station and Newspaper (Canadians, Rotary, COMMIT do Medical Mission in Nicaragua). None of this would be possible without the help of the Rotary Club of Stratford and the Charitable Foundation, the International Committee, Rotary Club of Granada and Rotary International, Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos ( Edgar - coordinator and Marlon - National Director) of NPH which provide our infrastructure and generous help to support what we do, the local Alcaldia, our many translators and friends who also help and the hard working team that went down this year. Thank you abundantly.
Also to thank:
Ontario Home Health Oxygen Rick Gautreau who help us with the containers
Doug Pinder our treasurer and generous donator
Stratford General Hospital, Spruce Lodge
The Hearing Center - Sheri and Shelley
Romeo Optometry - Joan and Linda
St James Church and Outreach Committee
Lena Vanderhout and donated layettes
Eric Huber and Guelph Missions
Stephanie Thompson and Gateway Veterinary services
Hill Rom Canada - two birthing beds
St. Thomas Elgin Hospital - 2 defibrillators and 1 procedure stretcher
Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario, Ottawa - 1 ECG machine
London Hospital Linen Services - bed sheets, patient gowns & soaker sheets
Canadian Hospital Specialities (CHS) - 60 cases of procedure trays
Interface Dental Surgery - 1 fetal signs monitor
Garry Foster, Simply Kids Daycare, London - school supplies
Steve Yeoman, Medical Mart - 1 surgical razor and surgical gloves
Healthcare Materials Management Services, London - medical supplies, logistics and transportation
London Health Sciences Centre - 3 exam tables & medical supplies
3M Canada - school supplies & stethoscopes
Jenn De Jonge - children's clothing
Rebecca McDonald - children's clothing
Medway High School – backpacks
Lyons Recycle for Sight
All those who participated in our fund raisers ie Golf week in Muskoka, Golf Tournament at River Valley, Golf Marathon at Westhaven, Boston Pizza Night and Fashion Show in Mitchell
All other individuals and groups that donated so generously and helped us.
Who amongst us does not cherish the thought of returning to our own space after a long hard day?Who amongst us does not crave our Personal Space?
This is the one aspect of the trip that always gives me pause.The lack of......
And yet, to my astonishment this anxiety dissipated almost immediately ..Even from the men’s dorm, explosive laughter could be heard, and they had to contend with each other’s Manly Nighttime Noises!!!!!
We have accomplished a great deal on this trip working IN PARTNERSHIP with the people of Nicaragua.It must however be stressed that the sometimes mad joy we experienced in seeing our work really make a difference [remember no hand-outs, only hand-ups], reflected the equally mad joy we felt for being with each other and succeeding in having such fun together under occasional very trying circumstances.
There must be countless motives for joining up for this sort of work; and I imagine that finding an organization that best suits an individual can be somewhat daunting.
This team was very fortunate to develop a camaraderie within a few days....which allowed us to have great fun, to laugh and be happy with each other and with what what we have been doing.
However we are none of us under any apprehension about ourselves.
We know what we have done is not common, but clearly we have not suffered great deprivations ourselves!Yes , it involves sacrifices in terms of younger people giving up their holidays to do it, and of course there are financial considerations for all of us.
But we benefit greatly personally from the experience, and I think today we come home feeling really happy that we have worked so very hard, both physically and mentally. We know we have partnered with Nicaraguans dedicated to the betterment of their people through education, public health, farming ,sewing and much more.
The Nicas love their country and their people, and they show great willingnessto help each other.
It must be said that we had a local government representative with us for many of our visits to the communities, and he showed us clearly that the community needs were being noted. In fact we are in partnership with local government for many of our projects
We know that we have been members of an extraordinary team who have worked together to develop a highly effective working relationship and affection for each other
But without a strong and extremely dedicated leadership we as a team could not exist.
Doug and Janice are a formidable pair.
Their individual personal strengths , along with their individual personalities, serve to benefit every aspect of the Organization .
They have initiated real changes in establishing hope and pride in the people here.
Through their persistent interest and engagement with various rural communities ( going back over 8 years)they have formed deep, trusting relationships and it is obvious that many of them have been inspired to take the help and move onwards with it to a level already yielding thrilling results.
And Edgar, our Coordinator must also be acknowledged.
With his knowledge of the communities we target, and his integrity, and,again,deep love for his people we have been able to function as a well-oiled machine.
Also we thank Eva, Emily and Gracie who looked after us so well at home, and the wonderful and fun Translators, none of whom we could have been without.
That’s it for now Folks.
Hasta el año que viene!